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U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) introduced legislation this month that will help Americans avoid exposure to the potentially deadly substance by increasing the amount of information available to the public about where it is found. Asbestos is a carcinogenic substance that increases the risk of mesothelioma and other cancers in those who are exposed to it. Asbestos-related diseases claim as many as 10,000 American lives every year and the World Health Organization estimates that more than 107,000 deaths worldwide are attributable to asbestos exposure. Asbestos is banned in many countries, but it is not banned in the United States, is still imported into the country and can be found in many American products and locations. Today’s legislation is co-sponsored by U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA).

“Every year, far too many Americans and their families suffer the deadly consequences of asbestos exposure. The goal of this legislation is simple: increase the transparency and accessibility of data informing the public about where asbestos is known to be present. This information will increase awareness, reduce exposure, and help save lives,” Durbin said.

In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed the Asbestos Information Act into law, which requires manufacturers and processors of asbestos-containing material to report information about their products to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). However, this law only includes a one-time reporting requirement, and because it pre-dated the use of the internet, the information was published in the Federal Register and was and is still not easily accessible to most Americans.

The Reducing Exposure to Asbestos Database (READ) Act introduced by Durbin today modernizes the reporting requirements of the Asbestos Information Act to ensure that Americans have accessible and up-to-date information about the identities and known locations of asbestos-containing products. The READ Act requires those who manufacture, import or otherwise handle asbestos-containing products to report this information annually to the EPA. The READ Act would direct this information to be made easily accessible on a searchable online database.

“Asbestos exposure remains a serious public health threat, with at least 10,000 Americans dying each year from asbestos-related illnesses,” said Heather White, Executive Director of Environmental Working Group and the EWG Action Fund. “Senator Durbin’s plan would give concerned citizens valuable information that they can use to avoid coming into contact with this lethal substance.”

“As a mesothelioma widow and co-founder of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), I strongly support the Reducing Exposure to Asbestos Database (READ) Act. For more than a century, asbestos exposure has been known to cause debilitating diseases and deaths. Worse yet, most Americans cannot identify asbestos or manage the risk. Undoubtedly, the READ Act will save lives and dollars. One life lost from a preventable asbestos-caused disease is tragic, hundreds of thousands is unconscionable,” said Linda Reinstein, President and CEO of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO).

Durbin has been a longtime advocate of protecting Americans from the harms of asbestos exposure and helping the victims of asbestos-related diseases and their families. In 2010, Senator Durbin received the “Tribute of Hope” award from the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization for his efforts to promote awareness of the hazards of asbestos and to reduce the presence of asbestos in American products.

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